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Last Updated

20 Aug 2003

Source:  Associated Press, July 27, 2002.

Army aims to correct "sloppy methods" after accidental release of anthrax spores

By DAVID DISHNEAU, Associated Press Writer

HAGERSTOWN, Maryland - Anthrax spores found outside the supposedly secure areas of a biological warfare defense laboratory last spring apparently were released through carelessness and not an intentional act, the Army said.

In response, commanders have ordered weekly environmental sampling for contaminants both inside and outside the containment labs in the biodefense center at Fort Detrick in Frederick, spokesman Charles Dasey said Friday.

He said the sampling, which have never been done in the past, is among a number of tightened procedures at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

"The scenario that people thought was the likely cause of those spores being outside the lab was just sloppy methods," Dasey said. "The sense of the institute is that it was poor laboratory techniques and not an intentional act."

The changes follow an internal investigation prompted by the discovery of anthrax spores last April in three locations at the institute outside the sophisticated labs that are designed to keep microbes from escaping.

The spores were found by a scientist doing some unauthorized sampling, Army officials said in April. More than 40 people, including Detrick workers and seven employees of a local laundry that washes the institute's towels and clothing, had nasal swabs taken after the discovery. All tested negative for anthrax.